By Shien C. Maiquez
(NEWS FEATURE) Calamba City’s Special Education for the Employment of Students (SPES) 2013 recorded 559 participants this year. This is according to the report released by the Public Employment Service Office (PESO) in June 2013.
SPES is mandated under the Republic Act 7393 or the act to help poor but deserving students pursue their education by encouraging their employment during summer and/or Christmas vacations. In the Calamba City, PESO is the implementing agency.
Calamba was among the first to implement SPES in 1995. The number of annual participants vary with the amount of funds allocated by each municipality. Calamba City is able to accommodate an average of 465 students every summer. Since 1995, SPES Calamba has recorded 8,413 beneficiaries.
Calamba PESO Department Head Peter Capitan explained that the program is for students who are of good academic standing and one or both of the student’s parents should unemployed or have no permanent source of income.
Angelo Dy, 17 and a resident of Villa de Calamba, is a student of Laguna College of Business and Arts. Like many students, he lives wanting to help out his parents with the household expenses. His mother manages a store in front of the police station where he would often be and when he heard about SPES he grabbed the opportunity right away.
Students who want to apply for the program are required to submit a report of their family’s net income and student class cards, among other documents to verify their qualifications. Aside from these, the student must also be enrolled for the current semester or for the semester preceding the program.
Participating schools in Calamba City include the University of Perpetual Help, St. John Colleges, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, and The Lyceum of the Philippines. SPES participants can also come from other schools as long as they are residents of Calamba. There have been participants from University of the Philippines Los Baños, Malayan Colleges, and Canossa de San Pablo Colleges.
This year, an additional 398 students was employed through the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Community Based Employment Program (CBEP), a complementing program to the SPES. CBEP is a upholds a policy of hiring 50% of unskilled or underskilled workers and 30% skilled workers in local communities. Representative Edgar San Luiz, proposed to DOLE to acquire more funds to accommodate more students this year. Overall, there were an additional 2,000 additional students from the province of Laguna taken in for the summer internship program under the CBEP.
With SPES and CBEP combined, Calamba recorded 957 participants who benefited from the paid summer internship program. These participants underwent job interviews and screenings and were selected to be the most deserving.
Seventeen-year–old Dy emphasizes the importance of perseverance in being accepted to the program. After completing the requirements and passing the interview, Angelo was set for a month long employment. He was excited for the chance to spend his summer gaining experience in the work force. He was put under the task of inventory and filing. Dy completed his first SPES experience in the summer of 2013 and he was satisfied with it. He also recommends joining SPES to his peers.
The local government of Calamba distributes SPES and CBEP participants among the different departments, as each and every department is required to help in the program. SPES participants are given office or clerk work, liaison, computerization and community surveying. There are also opportunities to become tour guides in landmarks like the ancestral house of Jose Rizal.
“The focus of SPES is not only to earn money, but also to serve as a training ground for them to become more competitive when they graduate,” explained Capitan. The PESO department head shared that they were pleasantly surprised to receive words of gratitude from individuals who were part of the SPES. These SPES participants would also update Capitan on their current employment.
Dy said that his experience with the SPES program was able to inspire him to become steadfast and persevering in his work. He learned to work even harder than before. His experience with the people he worked under and the people he worked with was also enjoyable as they were easy to get along with. Dy established his own connections within the municipality through the program. He believes that SPES definitely gave him a big boost and that it increased his chances of making it in the real world.
SPES 2012 participant, Roselle Previlla,18, in in agreement with Dy. “It’s like a training ground. We’re shown that we all have to start at the bottom. We need to work hard even if we have an edge from graduating from a good school.”
Previlla is a student of the University of the Philippines Los Baños and is a resident of Brgy. Majada, Calamba City. She shared that SPES taught her about teamwork and patience. Previlla was assigned in the City Housing and Settlements Department as an encoder and community surveyor.
“Sometimes there are no job openings in the city hall, so students are assigned to departments in barangays instead. Participants must be prepared to do what job is given to them even if it’s not in their field of specialization,” Previlla explained.
Both Dy and Previlla say that given the chance, they would want to participate in SPES in the future. It is good news to know that it is very much likely to happen.
PESO Calamba aims to help SPES and CBEP participants finish their studies and pursue their career. After graduating completion of the summer internship program, the local government of Calamba also helps in finding job openings for the participants.
Participants of SPES receive their wages at the end of the program. Each day they work corresponds to Php 255 or the minimum wage. According to Capitan, the particpants’ wages are given directly to the participants through a payroll system.
By law, 60% of the wages of the students must come from the local government while the remaining 40% is provided by the DOLE. PESO Calamba started releasing the remaining 40% of this years program on September 20.
Although it has been more than three months of waiting for the portion of the DOST, Dy understands that the funds of the national government takes time to be processed. The participants of SPES have been oriented about this problem prior to their working days as it has been a common trend ever since it was first conducted. This year, the remaining 40% wage from DOST had been delayed because of the processing of the additional 2,000 students in Laguna that participated from the CBEP.
According to Dessy Encinas, an employee of PESO Calamba, the portion of DOST is delayed because even if they send the profiles and documents of the participants they have already verified, DOST must then re-asses all documents to ensure that none has been tampered with. Calamba City aims to be able to provide the 60% wage by the end of May to be able to provide support for the student’s enrollment onto the first semester. Over the years, the participants use the portion of the DOST for their second semester expenses.
The Calamba SPES program prioritizes college students with their youngest participants at least in their third year in college. “College students feel the importance of employment more so that somewhat ensures us that they use the funds to finish their studies,” says Encinas.
Upon acceptance into the program, SPES participants are expected to act professionally. Grounds for the removal of a participant from the program include excessive absences, bad work ethics, and destruction of government property. In cases as such, the students will not receive any wage even if they have been employed for several weeks already. However, in cases where absences are justified, the wages they earned in the days they have worked will still be given to them at the end of the program. Such grounds include the participant being sick or having to take care of an immediate family member.
Falsification of documents are an annual problem, according to Encinas. There have been cases of people over the age of 25 wanting to participate. They use falsified birth certificates. Signatures of school registrar’s are also forged usually by students who do not meet the grade requirement of the program of an average 2.5.
“From the start we see who is trust worthy or not. If they cannot be honest with documents, what more when they are placed in their workstations?” said Encinas.
In Calamba, the three million annual budget for the wages of the participants can only cover so much. Department Head Peter Capitan hopes to double the number of beneficiaries given the chance for securing additional budget for the program. He added that there is no problem in finding work for the students to do. PESO has community projects that need all the manpower that it can get.
Capitan also hopes to be able to improve the language and communication skills of his participants, as he believes that the skill is needed for every type of job the students will ever hope to have.
Dy’s advise to SPES applicants is to “do things to the best of your abilities.” Previlla emphasized that, “students should mind the deadlines of requirement and that they should be willing to be placed in any department, in any place.”
Department Head Capitan wants the hopeful applicants to be aware that being in SPES is being in a commitment. He explained that the participants “need to be consistent with their life. They have good grades, good traits, and that we can see their perseverance to study and to finish their studies.”